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Exploring how the way we live influences climate change and its impact across the Carolinas. You also can read additional national and international climate news.

Work to begin in early 2024 to reopen Kings Mt. lithium mine

Albemarle Corp. plans to start draining the 168-foot deep lake in the coming months at its former lithium mine site in Kings Mountain. The company wants to reopen the mine to supply electric vehicle battery makers.
David Boraks
/
WFAE
Albemarle Corp. plans to start draining the 168-foot deep lake in the coming months at its former lithium mine site in Kings Mountain. The company wants to reopen the mine to supply electric vehicle battery makers.

North Carolina's revival as a major source of lithium will take another step forward early next year. Albemarle Corp. expects to obtain permits and begin draining water in the next few months from the 168-foot deep lake at the former mine off I-85 in Kings Mountain.

Cindy Estridge leads a tour for reporters as Albemarle's Kings Mountain lithium mine site
David Boraks
/
WFAE
Cindy Estridge leads a tour for reporters as Albemarle's Kings Mountain lithium mine site

"The water is going to be pumped out at a rate of approximately 2,500 gallons per minute. If you do the math on that, that comes out to about 17.9 months, so about 18 months is what we're looking at for the dewatering of the pit," spokeswoman Cindy Estridge said during a media tour Tuesday. "Once the pit's dewatered, we will be ready for the construction of the mine."

The project still needs a state mining permit, but Albemarle has said it could open as soon as late 2026.

"We'll want to have that visibility on our permit before we make a final investment decision," said Ellen Lenny-Passagno, Albemarle's vice president for external affairs. "Obviously, you know, it's got to make sense economically, but this is a very good resource."

Charlotte-based Albemarle wants to reopen the mine to supply lithium for electric vehicle batteries. It's getting help from a $90 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense, announced in September.

The Kings Mountain mine operated under previous owners for 50 years before closing in 1988, when cheaper lithium from foreign sources made it uncompetitive.

A separate project planned by Belmont-based Piedmont Lithium is also awaiting a state mining permit. It's proposed on a site in northern Gaston County near Cherryville.

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David Boraks previously covered climate change and the environment for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.